In Defence of the Establishment

by on 30 September, 2015

971753_10151574401276107_283040900_nChristopher Rath outlines why the establishment of the Liberal Party exists, and why change from within is the obvious choice for Classical Liberals, Libertarians, and Small Government Conservatives.

The Liberal Party of Australia today is still the John Howard party. The majority of Federal Liberal MPs and Senators served in his Government, most advisers and apparatchiks worked for his Government, and most Young Liberals were inspired to join the Party because of his Government.


I joined the Young Liberals in 2006 at the very young age of 16 because I believed in the economic reform being pursued by the Howard/Costello era. I was a “dry” before I knew what the term meant. I was also a “dry” before I knew that there were “wets” in the Party. I thought that “dry” was the only game in town and Party divisions only existed on social issues.


This is because by the time the 2000s came along the Liberal Party establishment had become “dry”, with the “wets” a minority of outsiders. The “wets” had been the establishment in the 1970s under Fraser but they lost the long bitter war that was waged in the 1980s and 90s. In fact you could say that Fightback! was the final nail in the “wets” coffin; certainly Howard led a thoroughly “dry” government for over eleven years. If the Party establishment was not “dry” perhaps I would have never joined. After all it was Hawke and Keating rather than Fraser who reduced tariff protection, floated the dollar, and began privatising government assets.


I love the Liberal Party establishment because I am bone dry, not in spite of it. My critics in the Young Liberals may call me an “establicon” or establishment conservative as a pejorative, but I wear it as a badge of honour. Being an “establicon” means being “dry”, it means supporting the Premier and Prime Minister, campaigning, raising money, supporting branches to grow, pre-selecting talented men and women, and fostering our best future leaders. It means loving the Liberal Party and our greatest living Australian, John Howard.


Howard was also an “establicon”, from being NSW Young Liberal President in the 1960s to seeking a parliamentary career as quickly as possible. He loved the Party and the establishment more than anyone, perhaps even more than his mentor John Carrick. When he lost the 2007 election and his seat of Bennelong he could have blamed his Treasurer, Cabinet, Parliamentary colleagues or Party machine. Instead, even after he had given 40 years of his life to the Party, 16 years as leader and over eleven years as Prime Minister, he humbly took complete blame for the election loss. In fact he defended and praised the Party on election night 2007- “I owe more to the Liberal Party than the Liberal Party owes to me”.


The people I’ll never understand are those who attack the Party or threaten to resign or somehow think that they’re above the Party. They are not. Not even a Prime Minister of eleven and a half years is above the Party. Similarly I’ll never understand those who claim ideological purity as a reason for preventing their party membership. If you don’t like the Party leadership or policies, you should join the party and make a difference or contribution towards promoting your deeply held beliefs. You’re going to have more influence inside the Party than from the sidelines. You’re not going to change the fact that the Liberal Party is the natural Party of government, being in power two thirds of the time since WWII.


The Liberal Party establishment is not perfect. Not every Liberal Party policy is perfect. But isn’t it better to get 80% of something than 100% of nothing? Isn’t it better to be pragmatic and win an election than being a purist and let Bill Shorten and the trade unions run the nation? All great right-wing leaders understand the importance of pragmatism and the broad church, but again Howard is the master:

“The Liberal Party of Australia is not a party of the hard Right, nor does it occupy the soft centre of Australian politics. It is a party of the centre Right. It is the custodian of two great traditions in Australia’s political experience. It represents both the classical liberal tradition and the conservative tradition.”


Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher understood this and similarly they turned their parties into “dry” pragmatic parties built in their own image. Even Turnbull understands the importance of pragmatism and has neutralised the issues of climate change and same sex marriage early on. But he also understands that the establishment today, unlike the establishment under the other Malcolm in the 1970s, is inherently “dry”. This is why he went out of his way in his victory speech to prove his “dry” credentials, careful not to scare away people like me- “This will be a thoroughly liberal government. It will be a thoroughly liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market.”


Turnbull’s Ministry is also packed to the rafters with establishment dries, including Mathias Cormann, Paul Fletcher, Arthur Sinodinos, Andrew Robb and Josh Frydenberg. Andrew Robb, the archetypical establishment dry, was an economist, staffer, government relations professional, and the federal director of the Liberal Party responsible for the 1996 campaign that brought the Howard Government to power. As Minister for Trade and Investment he has successfully negotiated three free trade agreements. Similarly Josh Frydenberg is an establishment dry, securing the safe seat of Kooyong after being an adviser to Alexander Downer and John Howard and a Director of Global Banking with Deutsche Bank.


So to all of the libertarians, classical liberals and small government conservatives out there, my plea to you is to join the Liberal Party, support the inherently “dry” establishment which now exists, try to make a difference by pushing for your agenda and philosophy within the natural party of government, and understand that in politics a level of pragmatism is required.


“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” (Otto Von Bismarck)

Christopher Rath is a Young Liberal Branch President and currently works in the private sector. He previously worked as an adviser to state and federal Liberal Parliamentarians and has degrees in economics and management.

25 thoughts on “In Defence of the Establishment

  1. ” If you don’t like the Party leadership or policies, you should join the party and make a difference or contribution towards promoting your deeply held beliefs.”

    With that kind of logic I may as well join the greens

  2. No one is above the Party. Ok, Stalin.

    But if we’re not above the Party, why should we think to change it by joining it? You advise young rightists to join the establishment and then to go against it? Which is it? Do you even know?

  3. The Greens would not have achieved half of what they have if they’d kept their mouths shut and stayed in the Labor party. So why do conservatives have to be pussies and settle for a pathetic, spineless party led by a champagne socialist Zionist banker?

  4. Because it’s not about principles it’s about getting people like the OP a seat in Parliament to lord it over us plebs. For some reason these types of people think they’re entitled to the highest honours we plebs can bestow upon them, just because y’know.

  5. No mention of Abetz, Andrews, or Bernardi?

    Where’s Abbott in this? Why has he been consigned to the memory hole? What happened to the Liberal Party being the Party of Abbott and Howard? What’s next, the Party of the two Malcolms?

  6. So from this article I’ve gleaned that young Christopher stands for three things (in order of importance):

    1. Christopher Rath
    2. Pragmatism.
    3. Free Markets.

    Exactly the kind of man we need the Liberal Party today – souless operatives existing for personal power and aggrandisment alone. Our country’s future is in good hands.

  7. Shorter Rath –

    Being an establicon means that you have the best chance of getting ahead in the party, and if the party is establicon (ie has the flexibilty entailed with having no policies) then it has the best chance of being elected.

    OK, good for you, but what exactly is in it for us ?

    I think I”ll pass.

  8. Hopefully the establishment dies as well as the ability of your type to roll into a role in the minerals council. The price of coal & the destruction of the Liberal party establishment will hopefully go hand in hand.

  9. The Australian right-wing political milieu needs a dose of radicalism. Too many old men and pathetic, sycophantic youth.

    The left has become mainstream and banal. There has never been a better time to capture the spirit of radicalism and rebelliousness to which all thoughtful and intelligent youth tend towards.

    We can start by bringing back a racial view of the world. Australia ought to be defined as a country of the Anglo-Celtic people. We should assert that the role of women in society is one of child-bearing and raising. Feminism is good to a degree, like most ideas, but it has been taken to suicidal heights and therefore must be stopped.

  10. ” If you don’t like the Party leadership or policies, you should join
    the party and make a difference or contribution towards promoting your
    deeply held beliefs.”
    >That’s working out REALLY WELL here in America with the traitor Republicans.

  11. ” Feminism is good to a degree, like most ideas, but it has been taken to suicidal heights and therefore must be stopped.”
    >Kitchen, or oven?
    Your choice.

  12. a good kitchen will contain an oven, and a good house-wife will have learned in her home economics class how to operate one. It’s not one or the other.

  13. Rath, a word of advice from someone who joined the party after a life of service. Someone who works in your mindset is forever on their guard. I prefer Honour, Loyalty,Integrity, Honesty and Courage – They are the values that allow a country to have free elections. Loyal to the Party only as far as the party is loyal to
    the country and nothing in this verbal diarrhoea suggest that you understands
    that it’s the country, our system then our party.

  14. “My critics in the Young Liberals may call me an ‘establicon’ or establishment conservative as a pejorative”

    But that’s impossible; you can’t be an establishment “conservative” in this day and age, it’s like saying I can be a Communist *and* a Monarchist Reactionary at the same time under the USSR in 1940. You are for the establishment – that means you are far from anything that can be called “conservative”.

    You, sir, are a cuck, and are serving to help destroy the Australian Right by tricking people into supporting the “10-years-behind-the-Labour-Party” Coalition by portraying them as if they can still be anything remotely conservative.

  15. The Liberal Party is worth saving. Its inherent values are important. Turnbull won’t last. The rebuilding phase begins after Turnbull is finished.

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